How these five black designers are pushing their craft forward while honoring African technologies

African culture is so present in all aspects of life in the United States that it is often overlooked and underestimated – think the rich spice of Southern cuisine or the lively connection and response in the top 40. In the world of design, there is no doubting the influence of Africa, whether it is West African clay cloth or Ethiopian cotton. But while it is important to honor these cultural roots, it is equally important to look ahead and resolve for the future. These five black designers do just that with their furniture and design projects, integrating African traditions into everyday life through family and heritage.


Abint Chom

Hana Getachew

Hana Getachew Bolé Road Textiles created as a way to incorporate her love of Ethiopian handwoven fabrics into her interior design career. Named after a vibrant street in Addis Ababa (where Getachew was born) Boule Street is a textile lover’s dream. The sheets, pillows, and even napkins – most of which are made of Ethiopian cotton – feel as luxurious as they look. “I love the traditional craft of weaving in Ethiopia. It is so dynamic, complex and rich that it provides endless inspiration for my work,” says Getachew, who recently collaborated with West Elm on a home collection.

Getachew explains that all too often, goods made in Africa are not seen as “good design” and instead are categorized as fashionable and not timeless.

“that they [African-made goods] It often boils down to specific themes, such as ‘ethnicity,’ and is often seen as part of a trend,” says the designer. It’s time to update this narrative. Made in Africa goods aren’t frozen in time; they evolve and can be modern and timeless. and with a profound impact on the wider world of design.”

Norman Teague

Courtesy of Norman Teague

Norman Teague

As the owner of Norman Teague Design Studios, Norman Teague has made a number of great pieces, but is best known for his impeccably crafted Cinema rocking chair that uniquely pushes design forward while honoring the glorious past.

“It’s not a Lamborghini, but it’s a fun way to do what humans have done for years,” Teague says of the Sinmi rocking chair. “There are many chairs in the world and each uses a unique combination of connections, materials and creative intelligence to design and develop them. The added value is that Sinmi is fun, curious and conversational.” In all of his work, Teague seeks inspiration from “Adinkra symbols, Yoruba language and patterns” and other aspects of black life.

What does the future hold for black designers? “I strongly believe that the creative currency fuels improved education that brings vitality and beauty throughout untapped communities of color.”

Jomo Tariko

© Andreas Getachew Kasai

Jomo Tariko

One look at Jomo Tariku’s catalog and you’ll find pieces reminiscent of royalty and intertwined with history. An Ethiopian-American artist and industrial designer, Tariko is deep in his thoughts on his African heritage and the impact on his work.

“Instead of all the negative things we hear about Africa, I prefer to focus on the things that have made a lasting impression on me: the diversity of its culture, its language, its customs, its religion, its architecture, its hairstyles, its body scratches, its colours,” Tariko explains. “They are all countless resources for my inspiration. I also respect and admire the work done by those who came before me and the work now being done by many creators from the African continent and the African diaspora.”

In fact, he was surrounded by African things as a kid that is now fueling his creativity and starting his career.

“Growing up in Ethiopia I was surrounded by the eclectic collections my father had acquired on his travels through Africa. … Our house was filled with these including the traditional three-legged stools that were locally made,” shares Tariku. “I was constantly painting in the living room – out of boredom at first. I am amazed that this has developed into an enduring passion for turning these things into my own interpretation of my African heritage.”

Bradley Powers

Christian Rodriguez

Bradley L Powers

With a family from Nigeria and Savannah, Georgia (via the West African slave trade), pioneering designer Bradley L. Powers hopes his pieces can move design forward by urging people to “think bigger and reconsider their assumptions.”

“In West Africa, the culture of mask-making and wearing masks resonates,” Powers explains. White colonists often thought masks were a ‘depiction’ of the spirits they named, but the truth is much deeper. Instead of making masks that mimicked spirits, the wearers created masks that would comfort the spirits and encourage them to join in. The mask was the channel And whoever wears it gives it life. I see my studio the same way. The work I do is created to spark ideas within you. I am just the engine that moves everything.”

Why does Powers choose to incorporate African culture into his work? it is easy. “Because I can’t do anything else,” he says. “Everything I do is African American. Because I am African and American. The way I eat, the way I sing, the way I talk, the way I dress. They all bear traces of my blood.”

Hollywood, CA, June 7, Bridge Coulter arrives at the 46th American Film Institute Life Achievement Award Gala in honor of George Clooney on June 7, 2018 in Hollywood, California, Photo by Steve Granitzouri Image

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Bridge Colter

Bridged Coulter is truly a Renaissance woman. She owns a boutique interior design studio in Santa Monica, California and also has a portfolio filled with charming (and eco-friendly) textiles inspired by traditional African block-printed cloth.

“I think we are related to our ancestors at the molecular level, which I find fascinating,” Coulter explains. “And it really affects my style. I consider myself a three-dimensional narrator: the design space is the canvas and my culture is part of the storytelling process.”

As for what the future holds for black designers, Coulter is “ready optimistic.”

“I think people are more open to thinking about designers they don’t necessarily look like, which is great. As a group, we can really embrace the richness, value, talent, thought process, and distinction that black designers can bring to the table. But also, as a culture, we should look for people who They may have a common understanding so they value and invest in these designers.”

This story was created as part of Future Rising in partnership with Lexus. Future Rising is a series run across Hearst magazines to celebrate the profound influence of black culture on American life, and to shine a light on some of the most dynamic voices of our time. go to the for the full portfolio.

This story was created as part of Future Rising in partnership with Lexus. Future Rising is a series run across Hearst magazines to celebrate the profound influence of black culture on American life, and to shine a light on some of the most dynamic voices of our time. go to the for the full portfolio.

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